The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) has filed a lawsuit aiming to prevent the state from “enforcing a requirement to provide a false, misleading, and highly controversial cancer warning for food and beverage [] products that contain the chemical acrylamide.” Cal. Chamber of Commerce v. Becerra, No. 19-0962 (E.D. Cal., filed October 7, 2019). CalChamber asserts that acrylamide “is not intentionally added to foods” but rather “is formed naturally in many types of foods when cooked at high temperatures or otherwise processed with heat.”

The complaint argues that although “certain governmental and scientific entities” have identified acrylamide as a carcinogen, “[s]cientific studies in humans, however, have found no reliable evidence that exposure to acrylamide in food products is associated with an increased risk of developing any type of cancer. In fact, epidemiologic evidence suggests that dietary acrylamide—i.e., acrylamide that forms naturally in normal cooking of many food products—does not cause cancer in humans or pose an increased risk of cancer in humans. Indeed, some food products that contain acrylamide (e.g., whole grains and coffee) have been shown to reduce the risk of certain diseases, including cancer.”

CalChamber argues that California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) requires businesses to warn consumers about potential exposure to acrylamide under the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65) despite that “neither OEHHA nor any other governmental entity has determined that acrylamide is a known human carcinogen, and in fact OEHHA has acknowledged that the agency does not know that acrylamide increases the risk of cancer in humans.” Therefore, CalChamber argues, the acrylamide warning requirement violates the First Amendment “by compelling Plaintiff’s members and other entities that produce, distribute, or sell acrylamide-containing food products to make false, misleading, and highly controversial statements about their products.”

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